Here in the Texas Hill Country, it doesn’t usually get very cold–not much below freezing and then for only a couple of hours. This week, though, we’ll join all of you Northerners in the cold that’s pushing down from the Arctic. The weather folks are telling us that we’ll be in the 20s for a couple of days. We may even see a little snow.
Which makes it a good time to stay inside by the fire with my current piece of needlework: “Canal Home,” an Artecy chart from a painting by David Mclean. I’m doing it on 18-count Aida–19.5 x 14″. 72 colors (most of them out of my stash). It’s a challenging piece of work that occupies me for a couple of hours every evening, usually with a book to listen to. I like doing these large projects: you can see the one I just finished (and several more) in the craft gallery here.
My 2019 and 2020 projects haven’t been framed yet. That requires a trip to Austin and I’m putting that off until I get my Covid vaccination, which may be a while. The vaccine rollout in Texas is chaotic. Our rural county (where almost 25% of us are over 65) has received fewer than 2000 doses so far. Those doses went (as they should) to health-care and other essential workers. But I’m not going to fret about what I can’t change. Staying home suits me: I’m a hermit at heart. And I love our Hill Country winters, with their quiet gray days and the view of the silent woods from my window. This year, we’ve already enjoyed one brief and very pretty snowfall–maybe there’ll be more. (Apologies to those of you who are digging out for the umpteenth time and are sick of snow.)
Also in progress this winter, another book. I occasionally think of retiring, but as long as there are projects that interest me, I’ll keep on writing. The current work is another Dahlias mystery: The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. A frivolous title, yes–that’s the nature of these “cozy” mysteries.
But the questions that interest me are nowhere near “cozy.” The book is set in late August/early September of 1935, when Huey Long was revving up his populist “Every Man a King” campaign, threatening FDR and the precarious political stability of the country. I often wonder what would have happened if Long hadn’t been killed (on September 8, accidentally, it now seems, by his bodyguards). Would he have split the Democratic ticket in 1936, handed the Oval Office to the GOP, and gone on to win the presidency on a third-party ticket in 1940? How would Long (described by a contemporary as “the personification of the fascist menace”) have responded to the challenge of WW2? Those are the questions that resonate for me in the background of an otherwise simple mystery about an arsonist that is threatening Darling. And which reminded me (as I watched the mob’s assault on our legislators as they were certifying the 2020 election) that until we understand our history, we are indeed doomed to repeat it.
And yet more books. 2021 will see the publication of several more books. The library hardcover edition of The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily will be published in early April; the audiobook will follow shortly. Please let your librarians know so they can order it. The next (#28!) China Bayles mystery, Hemlock, will be published on September 7 in hardcover, paperback, digital, and audio. Loving Eleanor is being shopped by Taleflick for film/TV, and A Wilder Rose remains under film option, “in development.” I was glad to see the recent American Masters attention to Rose Wilder Lane but disappointed, too. There’s far more to the Rose-and-Laura story than AM was willing (or felt able) to tell.
Please stay warm this winter, wherever you are. And stay safe. I have the feeling that those two small words will hold a special meaning for all of us for the rest of our lives.
Reading note. We are not makers of history. We are made by history.–Martin Luther King